SNF Preview: Pittsburgh at Baltimore

SNF Preview: Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Line: Baltimore -2

Total: 35

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

When: Sunday, 1/1 at 8:20 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Pittsburgh might be eliminated from playoff contention by the time it takes the field against NFC North rival Baltimore on Sunday night.

The Steelers need to win out and get some help to make the playoffs, including a New England win against Miami earlier in the day on Sunday. Baltimore has already clinched a playoff berth, but it is still alive for the NFC North crown. The Ravens are one game back of Cincinnati, who it already beat once and will face again in Week 18.

“We’re going to focus on the things in our control, and that’s our preparation, and then what we do inside the stadium on Sunday night,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “We acknowledge all those scenarios and things exist. But all of those scenarios and things have existed since September 11, since we started the season.”

DraftKings has the Steelers priced as 14-1 longshots to make the playoffs this season, while Baltimore is +200/-250 to win the NFC North. The Ravens are 13-1 to win the AFC, putting them behind four teams in that futures market.

Oddsmakers opened Baltimore as a 6.5-point favorite for Sunday’s rivalry matchup, but the early betting action has been all over the Steelers, pushing the line down to -2 as of Friday afternoon. Sunday night’s total opened at 42 and has plummeted to 35—the ‘under’ has cashed in the last four head-to-head meetings between these teams.

Tomlin has never had a losing season in his 15 completed seasons with Pittsburgh, and the Steelers have not had a losing record since going 6-10 under Bill Cowher in 2003. They have won five of their last seven games to keep their hopes of a winning season alive, holding Las Vegas scoreless in a comeback win last week.

Quarterback Kenny Pickett threw for 244 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his return after missing two weeks with a concussion. He only led the offense into the Raiders red zone once, and kicker Chris Boswell went 2 of 4 on field goal attempts. Running back Najee Harris had a solid showing though, racking up 95 total yards.

Pickett was able to engineer a 10-play, 76-yard drive that was capped off by a 14-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver George Pickens with 46 seconds remaining. The Steelers do not have a skill position player older than 26 on their roster.

“I didn’t see big eyes, I saw sure eyes,” Tomlin said. “I saw guys that understood what was at stake and guys that look prepared to do it.”

Baltimore needs a win on Sunday night to ensure that it will still be alive in the NFC North race heading into next week’s showdown with Cincinnati. The Ravens won the first meeting against Pittsburgh due to 215 rushing yards, even with quarterback Lamar Jackson sidelined. Jackson is expected to remain ‘out’ this week, but the Ravens have stepped up defensively with their star quarterback absent.

They have gone 3-1 in those four games, allowing just three touchdowns and 11.3 points per game during that stretch. Their defense ranks fifth in the NFL with 44 sacks, and they are giving up just 200 passing yards per game.

Tyler Huntley finally threw his first passing touchdown since taking over for Jackson, but he has completed just 55.3% of his passes over the past two weeks. The Ravens are averaging 191 rushing yards per game during that stretch, but kicker Justin Tucker has wound up doing most of the scoring.

Pittsburgh has gone 4-1 against the spread in its last five games, while Baltimore is 2-4 ATS in its last six games. The Ravens have gone ‘under’ the total in six of their last seven games, including each of their last five home games. They have only covered the spread once in their last five home games against Pittsburgh.

The pick: Baltimore -2

This is a nice opportunity to take Baltimore at a cheap price with yet another week of experience under Huntley’s belt. The Ravens have been racking up a ton of rushing yards over the last few weeks, and their defense is playing as well as any unit in the NFL. I don’t trust Pittsburgh’s young offense to solve that challenge in a primetime road game, especially when Baltimore is going to control the clock. Pickett has only turned one red-zone trip into a touchdown over his past two games, and the Steelers went 5 of 14 on third down last week. I like getting this bet in early, because Pittsburgh could be eliminated from playoff contention by the time this game kicks off. There’s nothing tricky about Baltimore’s motivation levels—the Ravens can clinch an NFC North-deciding showdown against Cincinnati with a win on Sunday night.

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